A 62-year-old woman has been arrested in Hawaii and been charged with stealing over $400,000 from her employer, a Santa Clara County-based non-profit organizations that provides low-income housing for the developmentally disabled, people with AIDS and the elderly.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office said that Theo Lani Bell is suspected of faking hundreds of documents and created elaborate stories to convince Housing for Independent People (HIP) to pay for extensive and unneeded plumbing repairs to an Oakland property, which houses a homeless shelter.
Bell is suspected to have pocketed the money, said Chrisitna Garcia-Sen, a deputy district supervising attorney in the economic crimes unit. Bell was arrested by local authorities at her family’s horse and cattle ranch on the island of Hawaii late last year and brought back by Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigator Norm Levy earlier this week.
She was arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court on felony charges of grand theft and a series of state tax violations. The grandmother faces up to nine years in prison, if convicted.
“Ms. Bell took criminal advantage of the trust given to her by her employer, stealing money from the needy in our community,” Deputy District Attorney Christine Garcia-Sen said. “Non-profit organizations should create careful fiscal oversight systems to protect themselves, and those they serve.”
While employed as a facilities administrator for the Milpitas-based organization, the defendant systematically defrauded her employer from 2004 until 2009 by submitting requests for reimbursement for the unnecessary building repairs, Garcia-Sen wrote.
To do so, Bell pretended to have purchased specialized plumbing materials from a local hardware store. HIP reimbursed Bell, who paid for the cost from her personal credit card.
Her scheme was discovered in 2009 when someone else took over supervision of the particular building and discovered that the repairs were not needed. The hardware store not only didn’t carry the “specialized” parts Bell had ordered but it had never done any business with her at all. Bell resigned that same year.